Dave Robicheaux is back, in a gorgeously written, visceral thriller by James Lee Burke, “the heavy weight champ, a great American novelist whose work, taken individually or as a whole, is unsurpassed” (Michael Connelly).. Creole Belle begins where the last book in the Dave Robicheaux series, The Glass Rainbow, ended. Dave is in a recovery unit in New Orleans, where a Creole girl named Tee Jolie Melton visits him and leaves him an iPod with the country blues song “Creole Belle” on it. Then she disappears. Dave becomes obsessed with the song and the memory of Tee Jolie and goes in search of her sister, who later turns up inside a block of ice floating in the Gulf. Meanwhile, there has been an oil well blowout on the Gulf, threatening the cherished environs of the bayous. Creole Belle is James Lee Burke at his very best, with beloved series hero Dave Robicheaux leading the charge against the destruction of both the land and the people he has sworn to protect.
You will hope that they are able to establish some justice in the bayou teche and a form of resolution to the human tragedy that occurs in this story.
David is on the repair from a recent large-scale shoot out on the bayou teche. He’s of a fragile state and in this story he starts to reflect deeply on his land and it’s history and talks from the heart about many issues he has struggled with through his years upholding justice. These reflections provide the reader with some food for thought and questions on love and war.
Clete Purcell is featured in this story more than previous and has a new dilemma set before him that is going to give him the test of his turbulent life. This excerpt, taken from the Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke, describes him …
“Clete was the libidinous trickster of folklore, the elephantine buffoon, the bane of the Mob and all misogynists and child molessters, the brain-scror he’d jar head who talked with a dead mamasan on his fire escape, the nemesis of authority figures and anyone who sought power over others, a one-man demolition derby who had driven an earth-grader through the walls of a mobsters palatial home on Lake Pontchartrain and systematically ground the entire building into rubble. Or at least that was the persona he created for the world to see. But in reality Clete Purcel was a tragedy. His enemys were many: gangsters, vindictive cops, and insurance companies who wanted him off the board. Klansmen and neo-Nazis had tried to kill him. A stripper he had befriended dosed him with the clap. He had been shanked, shot, garrotted, and tortured. A United States congressmen tried to have him sent to Angola. But all of the aforementioned were amateurs when it came to hurting Clete Purcel. Clete’s most dangerous adversary lived in his own breast.”
This story shines with some key female characters, one missing another needing discovery. There are women who want lives in film making, singing and acting but find more darker roads and fates in caught in the path of the evil men. There are men of power in this story and war criminals, mobsters and ex-cons. There are also courageous, and loving men fathers who try to rekindle with those lost in their past.
There is redemption, vengeance and love.
Love has a chance against the hate of the past, chance to aid the damaged souls in this story.
There is a great struggle for a father and daughter here, to reunite and protect under circumstances that are far from normal.
A very important ingredient to this story is the entering on the scene of a despondent woman, Gretchen Horowitz, she’s caught in the path of wicked and bad men.
Shes a memorable character with plenty of fight, a femme fatale with many good wholesome qualities a byproduct of the evil that men do, a survivor.
David Robicheaux is a character that I will love to go back and learn and read of his first chapter in entering the fiction world in the novel Neon Rain. He seems successful due to certain qualities pus the great writing ability of James Lee Burke. I came across some words Raymond Chandler recently that describe the possible requirements in a successful detective as Philip Marlowe. Chandler wrote in “The Simple Art of Murder”:
‘In evening that can be called art there is a quality of redemption…. down theses mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man…
He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks-that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.
The story is this man’s adventure in the search of a hidden truth,…If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
This does refer to a certain kind of detective but I couldn’t help matching some of this qualities Chandler talks of with David Robicheaux
James lee Burke’s usage of metaphors and descriptive writing is astounding and makes the reading that much more enjoyable. It almost like while reading this story your thinking the whole end of the story the purpose or theme is not the that crucially important because the sentence by sentence masterful writing that you find within this story is the real joy of reading. This story is a grand work of fiction that incorporates many stark human realities and consequences of evil.
Creole Belle and Glass rainbow are two novels I read in succession that gave me a whole different outlook on writing style.
This story will have you hooked and captivated with the need for a swift resolution, love, vengeance and redemption.
Now for some notable excerpts from this novel:
Tee Joile being described by David..
“Her eyes were blue-green, her hair long and mahogany-coloured with twists of gold in it that were as bright as buttercups. She was part Indian and part Cajun and part black and belonged to that ethnic group we call Creoles, although the term is a misnomer.”
“For me, Louisiana has always been a haunted place. I believe the spectres of slaves and Houma and Atakapa Indians and pirates and Confederate soldiers and Acadian farmers and plantation belles are still out there in the mist. I believe their story has never been adequately told and they’d will never rest until it is. I also believe my home state is cursed by ignorance and poverty and racism, much of it deliberately inculcated to control a vulnerable electorate.”
“I’ve acquired little wisdom with age. For me, the answers to the great mysteries seem more remote than ever. Emotionally, I cannot accept that a handful of evil men, none of whom fought in a war, some of whom never served in the military, can send thousands of their fellow countrymen to their deaths or bring about the deaths or maiming of hundreds of thousands of civilians and be lauded for their deeds. I don’t know why the innocent suffer. Nor can I comprehend the addiction that laid waste to my life but still burns like a hot coal buried under the ash, biding its time until an infusion of fresh oxygen blows it alight. I do not understand why my Higher Power saved me from the fate I designed for myself, while others of far greater virtue and character have been allowed to fall by the wayside. I suspect there are answers to all of these questions, but I have found none of them.
For me, the greatest riddle involves the nature of evil. Is there indeed a diabolical force at work in our midst, a satanic figure with leathery wings and the breath of a carrion eater?
Any police officer would probably say he’d need to look no further than his fellow man in order to answer that question. We all know that the survivors of war rarely speak of their experience. We tell ourselves they do not want to relive the horror of the battlefield. I think the greater reason for reticence lies in their charity, because they know that the average person cannot deal with the images of a straw village worked over by aGatling gun or Zippo-tracks, or women and children begging for their lives in the bottom of an open ditch, or GIs hanged in trees and skinned alive. The same applies to cops who investigate homicides, sexual assaults, and child abuse. A follower of Saint Francis of Assisi, looking at the photographs of the victims taken at the time of the injury, would have a struggle with his emotions regarding abolition of the death penalty.
Regardless, none of this resolves the question. Perhaps there’s a bad seed at work in our loins. Were there two groups simian creatures vying for control of the gene pool, one fairly decent, the other defined by their canine teeth? Did we descend out of a bad mix, some of us pernicious from the day of our conception? Maybe. Ask any clinician inside the system how a sociopath thinks. He’ll be the first to tell you he doesn’t have a clue. Sociopaths are narcissists, and as such, they believe that reality conforms to whatever they say it is. Consequently, they are convincing liars, often passing polygraph tests and creating armies of supporters.”
“Gretchen Horowitz did not contend with the nature of the world. In her opinion, no survivor did. The world was a giant vortex, anchored in both the clouds and the bottom of space, at any given time swirling with a mix of predators and conmen and professional victims and members of the herd who couldn’t wait to get in lockstep with everyone around them. She felt little compassion or pity for any of them. But there was a fifth group, the arms and heads and legs of the individuals so tiny they could barley be seen. The children did not make the world. Nor did they have the ability to protect themselves from the cretins who preyed upon them. She did not speculate on the afterlife or the punishment or rewards it might offer. Instead, Gretchen Horowitz wanted to see judgement and massive amounts of physical damage imposed on child abuses in this life, not the next.”
“The concerns that beset Clete for most of his life had disappeared, only to be replaced by the conviction that every tick of the second hand on his wristwatch was an irrevocable subtraction from his time on earth.
He knew that death could come in many ways, almost all of them bad. Those who said otherwise had never smelled the odour of a field mortuary in a tropical country when the gas-powered refrigeration failed. Nor had they lain on a litter next to a back marine trying to hold his entrails inside his abdomen with his fingers. They had never heard a grown man cry out for his mother in a battalion aid tent. Death squeezed the breath from your chest and the light from your eyes. It was not kind or merciful; it lived in bed sheets that stuck to the body and wastebaskets filled with bloody gauze and the hollow eyed stare of emergency room personal who went forty-eight hours without sleep during Hurricane Katrina. It invaded your dreams and mocked your sunrise and stood next to your reflection in the mirror. Sex and booze and dope brought you no respite. When you lived in proximity to death, even a midday slumber was filled with needles and shards of glass, and the smallest sounds made the side of your face twitch like a tightly wound rubber band.”
“When you hover on the edge of the grave, when you feel that the act of shutting your eyes will cause you to loose all control over your life, that in the next few seconds you will be dropped into a black hole from which you will never exit, you ave an epiphany about existence that others will not understand. Every sunrise of your life will become a candle that you carry with you until sunset, and anyone who tries to touch it or blow out its flame will do so at moral risk. There’s a syndrome called the thousand-yard stare. Soldiers bring it back from places that later are reconfigured into memorial parks filled with statuary and green lawns and rows of white crosses and landscape on a killing field is a poor anodyne for those who fear their fate when they shut their eyes.”
“We scuba dived off Seven Mile Reef and trolled for marlin and, in the evening, cooked redfish wrapped in tin foil on a hibachi on the beach in front of our motel down at the southernmost point on the island. The waves were black at night and strung with foam when they capped on the sandbars, and towards dawn, when the stars went out of the sky, the sun would rise without warning in an explosion of light on the eastern rim of the world, and the water outside our motel window would be flat and calm and turquoise and blue, dimpled with rain rings, and sometimes a flying fish would be sailing through the air as though determined to begin a new evolutionary cycle.
It was grand to be there on the watery edge of my country, amid it’s colonial past and it’s ties to the tropical world of John James Audubon and Jean Lafitte and missionaries who had knelt in the sand in belief that they found paradise. I wanted to forget the violence of the past and the faces of the men we had slain. I wanted to forget the dissembling and prevarications that constituted the official world in which I made my living, and most of all, I wanted to forget the lies that I had told others about the events on the bayou.”